Cultured Watford: a month of festivities
PUBLISHED: 12:17 17 June 2014 | UPDATED: 12:17 17 June 2014
This month, Watford becomes a vibrant centre of the arts as the town hosts three major cultural events. Ewan Foskett reports on a place alive with performance
When most people think of Watford they picture the Hornets and the beautiful game – but the town hosts culture equally as alluring as the football played at Vicarage Road. It might not be the first place that jumps to mind, but Watford is a jewel in the county’s artistic crown. This month brings two major showpieces that will inject glamour, art and the unknown into an already culturally-rich town.
>>> Watford LIVE!
The Watford LIVE! festival is held from June 1 to 30, when the town will be brought to life by a huge range of open-air performances as musicians, dancers and street artists set up shop at venues all over – liberating art from the usual cultural venues and showcasing talent where everyone can see it
Organiser Fran Kershaw said visitors should look beyond Watford FC to find out what the town has to offer. The freelance artist added, ‘The club is obviously a big part of Watford’s history and obviously a lot of people really care a lot for the team’s progress. But I’d like to think there’s a little more to us Watfordians than custodians of an, albeit wonderful, football club.
‘Watford has a strong history of local talented artists and musicians, especially in the central area. The arts society, for instance, has been running for 100 years, and has had some very distinguished people through its doors over that time.
‘The tradition for artistic endeavour in Watford is pretty strong, I think it’s just a question of highlighting it a bit more and celebrating it a bit too.’
Also running in June is the fourth Imagine Watford event, which will see unusual and one-of-a-kind street theatre pop up across the town. Last year saw a record number of visitors descend on the town centre to watch spinning trolleys, giant dinosaur puppets and an unusual performance involving metal beds.
The annual culture celebration is growing in popularity, with more than 95,000 people flocking to last year’s festival compared to 57,000 in 2012.
This year’s bonanza, which is organised in association with the Watford Palace Theatre, will see the town transformed from June 19-29.
Organisers have booked the the world’s smallest travelling music hall, a fiery dance set – taking place in a bar – and a play performed in the back of a moving ambulance.
Sarah Priestley, curator of Watford Museum, is a champion of the town’s cultural heritage and its year-round arts programme: ‘Watford is a brilliant regional entertainment and culture centre – be that for theatre, dance or a concert. The annual Imagine Watford festival drew over 90,000 spectators last year and showcases world-class street theatre. Watford also encourages local performance talent through Watford LIVE! And the Palace Theatre – a stunning Edwardian theatre – is the leading new-writing venue in the region.’
Launching this month to coincide with the festivals is a series of cultural events organised by the borough council.
There will be a free Big Event every month for the next year, as part of what the local authority called ‘the most ambitious arts and activities programme ever staged in Watford’. It will be centred around the Parade, an area which has had a £4.3m redevelopment by the council.
The launch takes place on June 20 and 21 to celebrate the official reopening of the Parade, with specially-commissioned performances set to draw the crowds.